Up and Down Lincoln Way revisited

Leigh E. Morris

Older readers of The La Porte County Herald-Argus may remember a regular column titled, “Up and Down Lincoln Way” that was authored by Bob Coffeen.

Lincoln Way has always been the “spine” for the downtown business community in La Porte, and Bob kept the community informed about comings and goings and other developments impacting that trajectory. He celebrated the good things and bemoaned the things that detracted from its vitality.

I’m on Lincoln Way almost every day, and over the past several years I’ve often thought of Bob as I’ve watched the loss of many businesses and the deterioration — or loss — of many historic buildings. However, more recently I’ve detected signs that those years of deterioration and decline are being replaced with new vitality — and excitement! For that reason, I thought I’d do a modern-day version of Bob’s “Up and Down Lincoln Way” column.

As I looked east from the intersection of Indiana Avenue and Lincoln Way I sensed new energy and activity. Lots of people going in and out of Brad Hull‘s State Farm agency on the first floor of the old Kessler Furniture building . . . the always-spectacular show windows welcome patrons to the fantastic Thaddeus C Gallery. . . the beautifully-redone Salon Rogue and Wilson’s Barbershop and Shave Parlor are both unique and welcoming.

Down the block, the lift in front of the former La Porte Sporting Goods provides evidence that long-vacant building may be being prepared for new occupants. That block also includes Kemp’s Office City that rivals the offerings of office supplies and equipment of big box stores often at lower prices and Topp Skillet, serving paninis and home-made soups on a large menu of freshly prepared selections.

Standing at the intersection with Michigan Avenue, I appreciated the investment RQAW made in that formerly deteriorating building. Frontline Foundations and the North Shore Health Center now occupy the old 1st Source bank building. The façade of the historic Low’s building next door has been beautifully restored and now awaits new occupants. Ta Corriendo offers up a wide array of Mexican food.

Across the street is La Porte’s own dedicated shoe store, Zelden’s Shoes is now bedecked with great new awnings. Next door, the newly painted buildings add to the color and character of the downtown. The old Delaney’s Furniture store is now home to Blondie’s Antique Store, Down the block, Urban Fitness occupies a building that was rescued at the last minute from imminent demolition. Four Seasons Asian Fusion offers a unique array of Chinese and Japanese food and a sushi bar

Plaza 618 begins the next block of Lincoln Way, and it’s been beautifully enhanced by the great new mural the Visual Arts Council spearheaded. There’s plenty of new activity down the block. As Time Goes By offers up antiques and a rare clock repair shop. Next door, a great new storefront has been installed and the boarded-up windows on upper floors are being renovated and opened. Thode Floral Company has a magnificent new store at 610 Lincoln Way. At the end of the block, Hot Spot Café and Alltech Computer Center share a totally refurbished shop that offers a unique array of product s and services. On the north side of the street, Mucho Mas and Mama T’s have restored facades and the building next door has been spiffed up and readied for a new occupant.

Crossing Clay Street, you can see that the former Harvey’s building has an entire new storefront that will hopefully soon welcome a new occupant. Next door, a restaurant, Bare Bones Gastropub is offering a unique menu of food and beverage. Down the street is Grit and Grace, a classy place that offers antiques and much more. The Coachman Antique Mall next door offers one of the largest arrays of antiques and collectables in the area.

Across the street, There’s T Berry’s Diner, home of the Smashburger and Go Aerial Fitness. The Pink Sheep Bahhhhtique, is one of the newest shops on Lincoln Way, and it offers an array of children’s clothes. Essling’s Cleaners and Furriers is a long-time mainstay that has one of the few vaults in the area for storing furs. Teri’s Ink, a screen printer and embroidery provider, is another great new store.

I came away from my walk up and down Lincoln Way with new appreciation for the work that the Urban Enterprise Association, The Business Improvement District, the Redevelopment Commission, building owners, business owners and others have done to move our community forward and make Lincoln Way an increasingly exciting place to be. I’ve only scratched the surface. There’s more and more progress and less and less deterioration and decline. Hurrah!

Leigh E. Morris was former mayor of La Porte

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